The Ledes

Wednesday, October 1, 2014.

Jacksonville Times-Union: A Jacksonville jury today found Michael Dunn guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. "Under Florida law Dunn must be sentenced to prison for life with no possibility of parole for the murder of Davis. He also faces a minimum of 60 years for the attempted murders of Leland Brunson, Tommie Stornes and Tevin Thompson, friends of Davis who were in the Dodge Durango with Davis when he died.... A previous jury deadlocked on his guilt in Davis’ death in February while convicting him of the second-degree attempted murders of Brunson, Stornes and Thompson."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, September 30, 2014.

Guardian: "Medical officials in the United States announced on Tuesday the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed outside Africa during the latest outbreak, which has killed more than 3,000 people this year. The patient, who has not yet been identified, is being treated in Dallas, Texas. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the patient left Liberia in west Africa on 19 September, but did not develop symptoms until a few days after arriving in the US. He was admitted to the Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas on Sunday."

Los Angeles Times: "The Securities and Exchange Commission accused two men of insider trading for acting on advance word that hedge fund manager Bill Ackman planned to bet against nutritional products company Herbalife Ltd. It's the latest dramatic turn for the Los Angeles company, which is under federation investigation and has been fighting allegations for nearly two years that it operates an illegal pyramid scheme."

Los Angeles Times: "Bell Gardens[, California,] Mayor Daniel Crespo died Tuesday after he was shot by his wife, Levette, during a domestic situation, Sheriff's Department officials told The Times."

New York Times: "An Oklahoma man was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the beheading of a co-worker, but federal officials said they had found no links that tie the man to terrorist organizations, including Islamic extremist groups that have beheaded several Western hostages in the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks. Alton Nolen, 30, who worked on the production line of a food processing plant in Moore, Okla., remains in the hospital after being shot by the company’s chief operating officer, who is also a reserve deputy sheriff, the authorities said."

New York Times: "Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leader on Tuesday called for the pro-democracy demonstrators who have blocked major roads in the city to return home 'immediately,' and he gave no sign that he was prepared to compromise on their demands for more open elections to choose his successor." ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging the protests.

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
October 1

12:15 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

Think Progress: "Facebook officially apologized Wednesday for enforcing its 'real name' policy for users against drag queens and other members of the LGBT community. Chris Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer, acknowledged that the policy has been a 'painful' experience for the many individuals whose profiles were suspended and promised to do better."

CW: Glad to see I'm not the only person who hates Windows 8. I thought it was just my old-lady-ness setting in.

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker: "The first trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Inherent Vice dropped today and, as expected, it's a madcap psychedelic Southern California love song that may or may not feature an appearance by elusive author Thomas Pynchon.... Anderson declined to answer directly in a recent interview with the New York Times, but [actor Josh] Brolin confirmed the notoriously reclusive author will appear in the film, telling the reporter, 'I don't think anybody knew... He came on as the kind of mercurial iconoclast he is. He stayed in the corner.'"

Here's a voiceover Pynchon did in 2009 promoting the novel Inherent Vice:


Whatever Happened to Piers Morgan? Guardian: "Piers Morgan, the former CNN talkshow host, has been appointed editor-at-large of Mail Online’s US operation. The outspoken New York-based British journalist, who parted company with CNN in early September, six months after his primetime talkshow was axed, will write for the Daily Mail’s US website several times a week, according to a Mail Online story published on Tuesday."

CW: You won't likely be hearing from Piers here. I've never found a reason to cite a Daily Mail story.

Los Angeles Times: "George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin are married, having said their vows Saturday evening in Venice, Italy." ...

... OR, as the Business Women Media lede reads, "Amal Alamuddin, a 36 year old London-based dual-qualified English barrister and New York litigation attorney who has long been a high-profile figure in international refugee and human rights law has gone against the trend for professional women in her field and married… an actor."

CW: Here's some cheery news. The MacArthur Foundation has named the newest recipients of its "genius" grants. I hope none of them is somebody you personally dislike (thus keeping it cheery). The AP article linked includes a slide show with mini-profiles of each grant recipient.

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."

 

Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

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Monday
May142012

The Commentariat -- May 15, 2012

My column in the New York Tiimes eXaminer is on Paul Krugman's column on the JPMorgan Stanley kablooey. The NYTX front page is here. ...

... ** NEW. I have another column in today's New York Times eXaminer, this one on David Brooks' attempt to explain Obama's popularity. The NYTX front page is here.

President Obama will appear on the ABC TV show "The View" Tuesday morning. Barbara Walters provides some clips:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

President Obama delivered the Barnard College commencement address Monday:

NEW. Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post: "Richard Fisher, the conservative president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, has been raising alarms about the big banks for years. The top five banks now control 52 percent of the financial industry's assets; they had 17 percent in 1970.... Fisher argues 'Complacency, complicity, exuberance and greed' are in our DNA. These 'human traits and weaknesses result in market disruptions,' Fisher says, that are 'occasional and manageable.' ... Big banks backed by government turn these manageable episodes into catastrophes.' Fisher would force the big banks to reorganize and get much smaller. And he would require 'harsh and non-negotiable consequences' for any bank that ends in trouble and seeks government aid, including removal of its leaders, replacement of its board, voiding all compensation and bonus contracts and clawing back any bonus compensation for the two previous years."

Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: "In the years leading up to JPMorgan Chase's $2 billion trading loss, risk managers and some senior investment bankers raised concerns that the bank was making increasingly large investments involving complex trades that were hard to understand. But even as the size of the bets climbed steadily, these former employees say, their concerns about the dangers were ignored or dismissed. An increased appetite for such trades had the approval of the upper echelons of the bank, including Jamie Dimon...." ...

"Regression to the Mean, JPMorgan Edition." James Kwak of Baseline Scenario: "The performance of anyone doing anything will exhibit regression to the mean.... If JPMorgan came through the financial crisis well, it was some combination of skill and luck. Remember, JPMorgan didn't have as big a portfolio of toxic assets as its competitors because it was late to the party; only in retrospect do we ascribe this good fortune to the supposed skill of Jamie Dimon. JPMorgan was never as good as people (both supporters and critics) made it out to be, so we shouldn't be so surprised that it just lost $2 billion (and counting)." ...

... John Schoen of NBC News: JP Morgan Chase's "spectacular multibillion-dollar losses, still being tallied weeks after a risky trading strategy began to unravel, have renewed concerns that the government may not be up to the task of reining in the nation's biggest banks." CW: No kidding.

** Ezra Klein: prominent attorney Emmet Bondurant "alongside Common Cause, where he serves on the board of directors, [is] suing to have the Supreme Court abolish" the filibuster. ...

... New York Times Editors: "We have supported eliminating the filibuster for judicial and executive nominees. Making other filibusters harder would be good for both parties. If [Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] remains majority leader in January, he should lead the reform."

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "The Columbia Human Rights Law Review ... has cleared its entire spring edition, doubling its normal size to 436 pages, to carry an extraordinary investigation by a Columbia law school professor and his students. The book sets out in precise and shocking detail how an innocent man was sent to his death on 8 December 1989, courtesy of the state of Texas. Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, is based on six years of intensive detective work by Professor James Liebman and 12 students."

Speaking Truth to Powell. Charles Pierce: "Has there been a more vastly ove rrated person in the past 50 years than Colin Powell? He helped cover up My Lai. He did his part to make sure that the Iran-Contra mess never came fully to light. He buckled under to chickenhawk bullies in the Bush White House and did his part to lie us into a destructive war with a speech to the U.N. that he knew was based on stovepiped bullshit from people he already didn't trust. And still, people trust him and revere him.... And now, of course, he's back with another book in which he polishes his own apple to a high gloss while ducking his responsibility for the greatest foreign-policy foul-up of our time."

NEW. Oh, dear. Could these patriots be breaking the law they hold so dear? Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones: "the Tea Party Patriots ... is recruiting volunteers for phone banks and promising a massive outpouring of support for embattled Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.... As a nonprofit group, TPP is banned from devoting the bulk of its resources to campaign activities.... If it goes in for a big campaign in support of him, it may risk violating its tax exempt status. The IRS recently announced its intention to crack down on nonprofit groups operating as thinly veiled political campaigns, and many of its recent targets have been tea party groups."

And Krugman gets zapped:

     ... Via Daily Kos.

Presidential Race

Priorities USA, the pro-Obama superPac, provides the two-punch in the Obama campaign's attack on Romney's tenure as head of Bain Capital (but of course they don't coordinate with the O-campaign, because that would be illegal):

... I don't agree with Michael Scherer of Time on this, but he thinks the attack on Romney's business acumen might not work. ...

... For one thing, Pat Wells, who stars in the Priorities USA ad, is a self-described conservative who voted for Dubya & McCain. ...

... Steve Benen: "... for months, there's been a standard line from the GOP campaign...: what Romney did at his vulture-capital firm was similar to what the administration did when it saved the auto industry.... Romney exploited the companies he gutted to line his pockets and those of his investors. That isn't the same as what Obama did for GM and Chrysler; it's the opposite.... Obama ... wasn't motivated by profit; he was trying to save the American auto industry, the backbone of the nation's manufacturing sector, millions of American jobs, and the economy in the Midwest."

Are These People Paying Attention??? Lucy Madison of CBS News: "Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a slight edge over President Obama in the race for the White House in the latest CBS News/New York Times poll. According to the survey, conducted May 11-13, 46 percent of registered voters say they would vote for Romney, while 43 percent say they would opt for Mr. Obama."

Tim Egan: Mitt Romney is a weasel.

Say What? Greg Sargent: "... the Obama campaign began airing an ad attacking Mitt Romney over layoffs at Bain Capital, which the Obama team is holding up as emblematic of Romney's economic philosophy. Byron York reports that the Romney campaign has settled on a line of pushback -- compare what Romney did at Bain to what Obama did with the auto companies. ...

... Jon Chait of New York magazine: "One of the hidden reserves of profit discovered by Bain was the moneymaking potential opened up by breaking a social compact between workers and their bosses, a compact that increased the security of working life but held down the profit potential.... The old corporate ethos was well embodied by George Romney..., who as head of American Motors repeatedly turned down bonuses because he believed $225,000 a year (about a million and a half dollars today) was the highest salary an executive ought to earn.... Conservatives [today] have coalesced around the view that market incomes are inherently just. [Mitt] Romney himself has argued that to the extent that unfairness exists in the economy, it consists of intervention by the government or labor unions. The market is fair by definition." Read the whole post. ...

... Dueling Views of Bain. Amy Gardner & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: Both the Obama camp & the Romney campaign produced ads yesterday about Mitt Romney's tenure as head of Bain Capital. "How the public comes to view Bain, a Boston-based company Romney led for 15 years, is critical to the former Massachusetts governor's chances in November. He has pointed to his time at Bain and the business experience he gained there as the singular reason he is the right man to fix the nation's troubled economy."

Shannon Travis of CNN: "A well-known, openly gay supporter of Mitt Romney in New York has decided to withdraw his support for Romney and back President Barack Obama instead.... Bill White wrote in a letter addressed to the former Massachusetts governor and obtained by CNN, 'You have chosen to be on the wrong side of history and I do not support your run for president any longer.'"

"Mitt Likes Music, Including This." A fairly funny auto-tune video by the Gregory Brothers, a New York Times "op-doc":

Marin Cogan of GQ reads the Ron Paul forums and reports on the "Seven Stages of Ron Paul Supporter Grief." Kinda funny. Unless you're a Ron Paul supporter.

News Ledes

Raleigh News & Observer: "John Edwards seemed surprised to hear from Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon in August 2008 that she had been providing money to Andrew Young, a friend of the former presidential candidate testified on Tuesday."

ABC News: "A medical report compiled by the family physician of accused Trayvon Martin murderer George Zimmerman and obtained exclusively by ABC News found that Zimmerman was diagnosed with a 'closed fracture' of his nose, a pair of black eyes, two lacerations to the back of his head and a minor back injury the day after he fatally shot Martin during an alleged altercation."

Washington Post: "The Justice Department has initiated a criminal probe into the $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the situation."

AP: "Greece is headed for another month of political paralysis ahead of new elections in mid-June, after party leaders on Tuesday failed to reach an agreement to build a coalition government."

Washington Post: "Newly installed French President Francois Hollande declared Tuesday that he would propose a 'new pact' to his European partners emphasizing economic stimulus, as he opened a new chapter in Europe's push-pull dispute about whether growth should be stoked through spending or saving."

New York Times: "The Virginia House of Delegates rejected the judicial nomination of a gay prosecutor on Tuesday after conservative Republican lawmakers argued that the nominee would press an activist agenda."

President Francois Hollande shakes hands with his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy before the investiture ceremony. Photo: AFP/Getty Images.

Guardian: François Hollande, France's first socialist leader in nearly 20 years, was sworn in at the Elysée palace on Tuesday in a deliberately low-key ceremony ahead of a meeting in Berlin with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, at which he will begin his quest to temper Europe's austerity drive."

Guardian: "Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, is to be charged over allegations that she tried to conceal evidence from detectives investigating phone hacking and alleged bribes to public officials. Brooks, one of the most high-profile figures in the newspaper industry, will be charged later on Tuesday with three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in July last year at the height of the police investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced." New York Times story here.

Reuters: "Jamie Dimon faces growing calls to give up the chairmanship of JPMorgan Chase & Co when shareholders of the bank convene on Tuesday, days after it revealed losses of billions of dollars in trades that were supposed to protect it from risk."

NEW. Politico: "Americans Elect, the deep-pocketed nonprofit group that set out to nominate a centrist third-party presidential ticket, admitted early Tuesday that its ballyhooed online nominating process had failed.... Just after a midnight deadline Monday, the group acknowledged that its complicated online nominating process had failed to generate sufficient interest to push any of the candidates who had declared an interest in its nomination over the threshold in its rules." CW: somewhere in the world, Tom Friedman is weeping.

New York Times: "Iran said on Tuesday it had executed a man accused of being an Israeli intelligence agent responsible for the assassination of one of its nuclear scientists, Iranian state media reported." ...

... Reuters: "Iran's talks with the U.N. nuclear watchdog about Tehran's atomic activities are going well, a senior Iranian official said on Tuesday, the second day of discussions."

Sunday
May132012

The Commentariat -- May 14, 2012

Paul Krugman: "... what JPMorgan has just demonstrated is that even supposedly smart bankers must be sharply limited in the kinds of risk they’re allowed to take on." ...

... "What this country needs is a businessman for President!" Clip from John Ford's 1939 film "Stagecoach":

... Heidi Moore of Marketplace explains what JPMorgan Chase did. In layman's terms. ...

... Eric Wasson of The Hill: "Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who has been leading the fight to create a strong Volcker rule, sounded confident he may now have the upper hand. 'The price will be they will lose their battle in Washington to weaken the rule,' he said, in an appearance ["Meet the Press."] Levin warned that the Treasury department appears intent on allowing the kind of risky $100 billion bet that JPMorgan made, and that allowing rules to be watered down could risk another massive taxpayer funded bailout of the banking system that was needed during the 2008 financial crisis." CW: You go, Timmy. ...

... Watch Jamie Squirm under David Gregory's devastating questioning. Ha ha:

... Alex Pareene: "Let’s put JPMorgan Chase chairman, president and CEO James 'Jamie' Dimon on trial... Let’s haul him before a judge (I would be fine with Judge Judy) and ask him to explain, without jargon, what positive role JPMorgan plays for the American and world economies that a few much smaller, less leveraged firms couldn't also play while not being at risk of losing billions of dollars by accident in a 'hedge' and sending world markets reeling."

... "Too Crooked to Fail.: Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone: "At least Bank of America got its name right. The ultimate Too Big to Fail bank really is America, a hypergluttonous ward of the state whose limitless fraud and criminal conspiracies we'll all be paying for until the end of time. Did you hear about the plot to rig global interest rates? The $137 million fine for bilking needy schools and cities? The ingenious plan to suck multiple fees out of the unemployment checks of jobless workers? Take your eyes off them for 10 seconds and guaranteed, they'll be into some shit again."

CW: haven't read it all yet, & I'm aware of the general story, but Jeff Toobin's long blow-by-blow of how Chief Justice John Roberts engineered the Citizens United case promises to be entertaining & maddening. ...

... Margaret Talbot of the New Yorker makes a prediction: "There are four same-sex marriage lawsuits making their way toward the Supreme Court now.... In 1956, the Supreme Court declined to take a case challenging interracial-marriage laws; by 1967, it had to. And, eventually, the Court will do the right thing on same-sex marriage, just as the President did last week. As in the [1967] Loving decision, the Court will reaffirm that the 'freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.' And it will finally uphold that freedom for gay and lesbian American."

Katy Waldman in Slate on the eight times a U.S. vice president did something that mattered.

Presidential Race

A thank-you note from Andrew Sullivan & Tina Brown of Newsweek. Sullivan has the cover story, which isn't up yet at this writing, and I won't be looking for it. Still, eat your heart out, Willard. You will not be getting an MSM cover -- ever -- in which a halo appears above your perfect hair. ...

... Peter Baker & Rachel Swarns of the New York Times: "In the hours following Mr. Obama’s politically charged announcement on Wednesday, the president and his team embarked on a quiet campaign to contain the possible damage among religious leaders and voters. He also reached out to one or more of the five spiritual leaders he calls regularly for religious guidance, and his aides contacted other religious figures who have been supportive in the past. The damage-control effort underscored the anxiety among Mr. Obama's advisers about the consequences of the president's revised position just months before what is expected to be a tight re-election vote." ...

... Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "Mr. Obama's declaration last week that he supports same-sex marriage prompted ministers around the country to take to their pulpits on Sunday and preach on the issue. But in the clash over homosexuality, the battle ... is actually church versus church, minister versus minister, and Scripture versus Scripture."

Ken Thomas of the AP: "President Barack Obama is casting Mitt Romney as a greedy, job-killing corporate titan with little concern for the working class in a new, multi-pronged effort that seeks to undermine the central rationale for his Republican rival's candidacy: his business credentials. At the center of the push -- the president's most forceful attempt yet to sully Romney before the November election -- is a biting new TV ad airing Monday that recounts through interviews with former workers the restructuring, and ultimate demise, of a Kansas City, Mo., steel mill under the Republican's private equity firm." ...

... "We view Mitt Romney as a jobs destroyer." New Obama campaign TV ad:

     ... The accompanying RomneyEconomics.com Web page.

Earlier this month, Matt Viser & Tracy Jan of the Boston Globe wondered about Romney's plan to regulate Wall Street: "Republican Mitt Romney is pledging, if he is elected president, to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, a position favored by donors on Wall Street who have sent millions the candidate's way. But he is nearly silent on how -- without the regulation -- he would prevent Wall Street from once again engaging in the risky practices that helped cause the 2008 financial crisis." ...

... The J.P. Morgan news should sharpen the contrast between the two candidates considerably, and gives new meaning to Romney's frequent claim that he wants to 'get government out of the way' and let the free market work its magic. -- Greg Sargent

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "As he prepares to release his scaled-back version of the DREAM Act, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is simultaneously laying the groundwork to blame the White House for its impending failure — and Democrats appear to be falling into his trap.... Blaming the White House papers over the fact that Republicans have fiercely opposed measures that benefit people living in the country illegally.... Even so, administration officials and top Democrats may be playing into Rubio's hands by resisting his effort.... Rubio's [purpose] is to obfuscate a clear and important distinction between the two parties among a key constituency that may potentially swing the outcome of what is expected to be a close election."

"Chaos in Tampa." Steve Kornacki of Salon: At the Arizonia Republican convention this past weekend, Ron Pau' supporters booed Willard's son Josh Romney off the stage (or they didn't, depending on whom you believe). Anyhoo, "This weekend brought another reminder of the real threat that Ron Paul and his supporters pose to Mitt Romney: Chaos in Tampa."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Despite their hard line in public, German policy makers, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have begun to hint at some flexibility on the deep and painful budget cuts European officials have demanded. In Greece, despite outrage at the cost of carrying out European demands for austerity, few seem prepared to argue that the costs of leaving the euro -- and perhaps severing political ties to Europe -- are really bearable."

New York Times: "A bill that would have allowed civil unions for same-sex couples in Colorado was defeated on Monday night during a special legislative session called by Gov. John W. Hickenlooper to debate the issue. The legislation was voted down by Republican lawmakers on 5-to-4 vote along party lines after more than two hours of emotional testimony in the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, where it was assigned Monday by Republican leadership in the House of Representatives." Denver Post story here.

AP: "The judge overseeing the criminal trial of John Edwards will sharply curtail the testimony of a key witness for the defense who could raise doubt about whether the former presidential candidate broke campaign finance laws."

AP: "Best Buy's founder Richard Schulze is stepping down as chairman of the beleaguered consumer-electronics chain after the company's investigation revealed that he failed to alert the board of directors when he learned that the CEO was having an inappropriate relationship with a female employee."

New York Times: today California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) "announced that the [state budget] shortfall had shot up ... from $9.2 billion in January, blaming a drop in revenue caused by a bad economy and court rulings barring spending cuts the state had approved. He proposed $8.3 billion in cuts, slashing welfare, social services and health care for the elderly, and a 5 percent cut in hours for state employees."

NBC News: "Texas Rep. Ron Paul said Monday that he'll cease campaigning in upcoming caucuses and primaries, an announcement of symbolic, if not substantive, significance."

NY1 News: "President Barack Obama is coming to [New York] City Monday to deliver the commencement address at all-female Barnard College and attend two high-profile fundraisers." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "President Obama's commencement speech at Barnard College on Monday highlighted the role of women in public life, a return to gender-gap identity politics that Democrats are hoping will benefit them in the coming election." See video of speech in Tuesday's Commentariat.

New York Times: "Yahoo's embattled chief executive, Scott Thompson, stepped down on Sunday after just four months on the job, sending the flailing company into limbo once again even as it faces intensifying competition from the likes of Facebook and Google for the attention of Web users. Mr. Thompson, who left amid a continuing inquiry into his academic credentials, will be replaced on an interim basis by Ross Levinsohn, Yahoo's global head of media...." ...

... The Atlantic: "The Wall Street Journal reports that shortly before stepping down as CEO, Scott Thompson told Yahoo's board that he was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer.... While the health issue allowed him to cite 'personal reasons' as the impetus for his departure..., Yahoo is officially designating his departure as 'for cause.' The termination with cause means that Thompson will not be entitled to his full severance package."

Washington Post: "The embarrassing losses at megabank JPMorgan Chase reverberated in Washington, Wall Street and on the campaign trail Sunday, with JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon acknowledging that the bank 'made a terrible, egregious mistake' by dismissing worrisome signs earlier this year about the bank's trading strategy. JPMorgan, the largest U.S. bank, was poised on Sunday to accept the resignations of three executives involved in the botched strategy.... Elizabeth Warren ... called on Dimon to resign from the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a critical interlocutor between Wall Street and Washington." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Stung by a huge trading loss, JPMorgan Chase will replace three top traders starting Monday, including one of the top women on Wall Street, in an effort to stem the ire that the bank faces from regulators and investors." ...

     ... New York Times Update 2: "Ina Drew, the chief investment officer who presided over JPMorgan Chase's $2 billion trading loss announced last week, has retired from the bank, according to a statement on Monday.... Two of Ms. Drew's lieutenants, Achilles Macris and Javier Martin-Artajo, are also expected to resign."

Reuters: "Greece's president met little enthusiasm from political leaders summoned to a final round of talks on Monday to avert a new election, reinforcing fears the country was firmly on the path to bankruptcy and an exit from the euro zone. European shares slid and Spanish and Italian bond yields rose as the political deadlock threatened to reignite the euro zone debt crisis. Greek banking stocks tumbled 7 percent."

AP: "Forty-nine bodies with their heads, hands and feet hacked off were found Sunday dumped on a northern Mexico highway leading to the Texas border in what appeared to be the latest carnage in an escalating war between Mexico's two dominant drug cartels."

AP: "China accused the Dalai Lama of being deceitful Monday after he reportedly alleged that Chinese agents trained Tibetan women to assassinate him by planting poison in their hair for him to touch during blessings. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the Tibetan spiritual leader's allegations, reported in the London-based Sunday Telegraph newspaper, were not worth refuting, but added that he generally spreads false information."

Saturday
May122012

The Commentariat -- May 13, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's fact-free ruminations. The guy is almost as talented as Willard at making up stuff. The NYTX front page is here.

William Black gets into the nitty-gritty of the Times' flawed reporting on the European economic crisis, which boils down to (a) they view it solely from the German perspective, and (b) they don't read Krugman so they don't understand where the problems lie.

** "Capitalists & Other Psychopaths." William Deresiewicz, in a New York Times op-ed: "A recent study found that 10 percent of people who work on Wall Street are 'clinical psychopaths,' exhibiting a lack of interest in and empathy for others and an 'unparalleled capacity for lying, fabrication, and manipulation.' ... Ethics in capitalism is purely optional, purely extrinsic." CW: this really is a must-read. And it sure helped me understand why Mitt Romney is such a facile liar.

Tom Friedman: philosopher Michael Sandel argues that "market values are crowding out civic practices."

My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks. -- President Barack Obama, to Wall Street fat cats, Spring 2009

Peter Boyer & Peter Schweitzer in Newsweek: "Despite his populist posturing, the president has failed to pin a single top finance exec on criminal charges since the economic collapse. Are the banks too big to jail — or is Washington’s revolving door at to blame?" Follow the money. ...

... Glenn Greenwald: "But the worst part of it all is that Obama is going to spend the next six months deceitfully parading around as some sort of populist hero standing up for ordinary Americans and the safety net against big business, and hordes of people who know how false that is will echo it as loudly and repeatedly as they can, tricking many people who don't know better into believing it." ...

... A pretty funny and informative post by Jessica Pressler of New York magazine on "Dimonfreude." ...

... AND Matt Yglesias: JPMorgan loses $2 billion in massive failed effort to exploit Volcker Rule loophole."

Joe Romm of Think Progress: think climatologists are exaggerating the effects of climate change? Actually, they've been downplaying it for decades.

Dean Baker & Kevin Hassett in a New York Times op-ed: "The American economy is experiencing a crisis in long-term unemployment that has enormous human and economic costs.... Policy makers must come together and recognize that this is an emergency, and fashion a comprehensive re-employment policy that addresses the specific needs of the long-term unemployed.

N. C. Aizenman of the Washington Post: "In about two dozen states across the country, the insurance marketplaces at the heart of the 2010 health-care law remain in limbo, with Republican governors or lawmakers who oppose the statute refusing to act until the Supreme Court decides its constitutionality. New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, joined the ranks Thursday,vetoing a bill from the majority Democratic legislature that would have set up the Garden State's version of the 'exchanges,' through which individuals and small businesses could shop for insurance."

In a New Yorker post, novelist Edmund White remembers his time at Cranbrook.

Matt Williams of the Guardian: "A leading Republican pollster has pushed for a party rethink on gay marriage, stressing the conservative nature of encouraging commitment between same-sex couples. In a memo to GOP operatives, Jan van Lohuizen -- a former public opinion researcher for George Bush -- notes a shift in attitudes towards gay marriage and calls for a Republican response."

David Maraniss in the Washington Post: "Obama is his mother's son." ...

... AND Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post: Anna Jarvis, who was the driving force behind the celebration of Mothers Day, eventually came to despise it because of its commercialization. Jarvis got Congress to designate Mothers Day, and later joined her sister in spending the family assets to try to end it. Jarvis had no children.

Presidential Race

War-Weary Vets. Margot Roosevelt of Reuters: "Disaffection with the politics of shock and awe runs deep among men and women who have served in the military during the past decade of conflict.... If the election were held today, Obama would win the veteran vote by as much as seven points over Romney, higher than his margin in the general population."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "Obama's stance [against gay marriage] in 2008 was a product of careful cost-benefit analysis, and so, I would wager, was his reversal yesterday.... Make no mistake, he has handed a wedge issue to an opposing party that has a long history of successfully exploiting them." ...

Maureen Dowd: Obama's "embrace of gay marriage was not a profile in courage."

Don Melvin & Rod McGuirk of the AP: "In a world weary of war and economic crises, and concerned about global climate change, the consensus is that Obama has not lived up to the lofty expectations that surrounded his 2008 election and Nobel Peace Prize a year later. Many in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America were also taken aback by his support for gay marriage, a taboo subject among religious conservatives. But the Democrat still enjoys broad international support. In large part, it's because of unfavorable memories of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, and many people would still prefer Obama over his presumptive Republican challenger Mitt Romney."

Zack Ford of Think Progress: Mitt Romney's support of same-sex adoption lasts one day.

Frank Rich: Romney isn't qualified to be a dictator.

Local News

Gary Fineout of the AP: Florida "Gov. Rick Scott's embattled chief of staff abruptly resigned from his job on Saturday following a series of news stories detailing his job performance and handling of contracts. Steve MacNamara said in his resignation letter that he would step down from his post July 1.... The Associated Press recently reported that while working for the Senate, MacNamara helped steer a $360,000 no-bid consulting contract to a friend who now leads a task force rooting out state government waste. The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times this week wrote a series of additional stories about other contracts and how MacNamara clashed with one agency head.... Several top agency heads -- who were hired by Scott when he first took office -- wound up resigning within months of MacNamara's arrival." You can find the Miami Herald background stories here.

News Ledes

AP: "California's budget deficit has swelled to a projected $16 billion -- much larger than had been predicted just months ago -- and will force severe cuts to schools and public safety if voters fail to approve tax increases in November, Gov. Jerry Brown said Saturday."

New York Times: "Mullah Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban minister who was an important go-between in potential peace talks, was shot and killed on Sunday as he headed to a government meeting on reconciliation, Afghan officials said."

New York Times: "In the face of spiraling costs and Iraqi officials who say they never wanted it in the first place, the State Department has slashed -- and may jettison entirely by the end of the year -- a multibillion-dollar police training program that was to have been the centerpiece of a hugely expanded civilian mission here."

New York Times: "China's central bank announced late Saturday that it would loosen monetary policy in a clear effort to stimulate the economy after the release on Thursday and Friday of a batch of economic indicators for April that were considerably weaker than most economists had expected."

Al Jazeera: "Israel and the Palestinian Authority have issued a rare joint statement saying both are committed to peace, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched an envoy to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Netanyahu's office issued the joint statement on Saturday after envoy Yitzhak Molcho met Abbas in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority's administrative capital."

Al Jazeera: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks poised for a setback as polls show the country's most populous state will likely vote in favour of a centre-left government, which she has sought to label as irresponsibly spendthrift. A week after voters in Greece and France clearly plumped for anti-austerity policies, the citizens of North Rhine-Westphalia could also punish conservative champions of belt-tightening."

Friday
May112012

The Commentariat -- May 12, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

David Ingram of Reuters: "Two big cases addressing marriage rights for gays and lesbians are on track to reach the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this year, keeping the focus on an issue President Barack Obama reignited with his endorsement this week."

Risky Business

Edward Wyatt of the New York Times: "Soon after lawmakers finished work on the nation's new financial regulatory law, a team of JPMorgan Chase lobbyists descended on Washington. Their goal was to obtain special breaks that would allow banks to make big bets in their portfolios, including some of the types of trading that led to the $2 billion loss now rocking the bank."

Peter Eavis & Susan Craig of the New York Times: "Every big bank has risk controls. Teams of executives are assigned to manage and review trades to ensure the bank’s safety and health. Yet trading debacles happen with surprising regularity. Last year, losses at two big institutions rocked the financial world. MF Global went out of business after making an ill-timed bet on European debt. Before that, a UBS trader in London lost the firm $2.3 billion. The 2008 financial crisis was the result of major risk miscalculations that brought down several big financial institutions, including Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and the American International Group."

It just shows they can't manage risk -- and if JPMorgan can't, no one can. -- Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund.

Daniel Wagner of the AP: "JPMorgan is the largest bank in the United States and was the only major bank to remain profitable during the 2008 financial crisis. That lent credibility to its tough-talking CEO, Jamie Dimon, as he opposed stricter regulation in the aftermath. But Dimon's contention that the $2 billion loss came from a hedging strategy that backfired, not an opportunistic bet with the bank's own money, faced doubt on Friday, if not outright ridicule."

Ben Protess, et al., of the New York Times: "While the [$2BB] loss [JPMorgan Chase experienced] is not a huge threat to a bank as large and powerful as JPMorgan, whose shares tumbled 9.3 percent on Friday, it is a stark reminder that the banking system remains vulnerable to market shocks more than three years after the financial crisis. It has heightened concerns that big banks continue to make risky financial bets that could threaten the economy. ...

JPMorgan has lost, in this one set of transactions, five times the amount they claim financial regulation is costing them. -- Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) ...

... Nelson Schwartz & Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie "Dimon's reputation and possibly his influence have been cut down to size. The trading loss disclosed late Thursday is a rare misstep by a man who prides himself on having his fingers on the pulse of his 270,000-employee company, and it suggests his vaunted confidence edged toward hubris." ...

... Here are some videos of Dimon complaining about regulation & the Volcker Rule.

... New York Times Editors: "... the loss also occurred because of a continued lack, nearly four years after the crisis, of rules and regulators up to the task of protecting taxpayers and the economy from the excesses of too big to fail banks; and, yes, of protecting the banks from their executives' and traders' destructive risk-taking.... JP Morgan, like the nation's other big banks, is still engaged in activities that can provoke catastrophic losses.... Mitt Romney has called for repealing Dodd Frank. That may win him Wall Street cash, but it is profoundly dangerous."

Presidential Race

Dan Eggen & Sandhya Somashekhar of the Washington Post: "President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage is energizing Christian conservative support for Mitt Romney in a way that the likely GOP nominee has so far not been able to do on his own, according to religious leaders and activists. Pastors in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and other swing states are readying Sunday sermons inveighing against same-sex unions, while activist groups have begun laying plans for social media campaigns, leaflet drives and other get-out-the-vote efforts centered on the same-sex marriage issue. Romney could benefit from a strong turnout among evangelicals and other social conservatives, many of whom remain skeptical of his commitment to their causes."

Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: "A majority of Americans, 60%, say President Barack Obama's newly announced support for same-sex marriage will make no difference to their vote. Twice as many say it will make them less likely to vote for Obama as say more likely, though roughly half of the 'less likely' group are Republicans who probably would not support Obama anyway."

Mitch Weiss of the AP: "Once a bright spot for President Barack Obama, North Carolina is now more like a political migraine less than four months before Democrats open the party's national convention in Charlotte. Labor unions, a core Democratic constituency, are up in arms. Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue isn't running for re-election; Democrats say she was likely to lose. The state Democratic Party is in disarray over an explosive sexual harassment scandal. Voters recently approved amending the state constitution to ban gay marriage.... And unemployment in the state remains persistently high.... Now traditional Democratic Party groups are threatening huge protests in part because they're deeply uncomfortable that the convention is being held in one of the least union-friendly states. And thousands of Democrats across the country are calling for the convention to be relocated because of the gay-marriage vote."

Not Bringing the Scissors Today. Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney's commencement address Saturday at Liberty University, the evangelical institution in Virginia founded by Jerry Falwell, comes on the heels of President's Obama's announcement Wednesday that he supports same-sex marriage. But in a conference call with reporters Friday, Romney campaign aides said ... Mr. Romney would not overtly wade into the issue of same-sex marriage. 'Marriage isn't the focus of the speech, but he will mention the fact that marriage is an enduring institution, which deserves to be defended,' one aide said." ...

     ... Update. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post reports on Romney's speech at Liberty.

Steve Benen catches Romney in 20 lies this week. (CW: The funniest one, to me, is his repeated insistence that Syria is Iran's route to the sea -- funny because Iran & Syria don't even share a border & Iran has hundreds of miles of coastline. Maybe if Romney hadn't let Ric Grenell go, Grenell would have updated Romney's stupid stump speech.)

Charles Blow: "There was a malicious streak at the core of the high-school boy in these accounts. Romney's muddled and confusing explanation and half-apologies only reinforce concerns that there is also something missing from the core of the man: sincerity and sensitivity. Targeting the vulnerable is an act of cowardice. The only way to vanquish cowardice is to brandish courage. Romney refused to do so."

Beth Reinhard of the National Journal: As Massachusetts governor, Romney's evolving record on anti-gay bullying got worse, not better, as he repositioned himself to run for president.

Right Wing World

New York Times Editors: "Mr. Broun owes an apology to history."to

Dana Milbank compares Richard Mourdock, who beat out Sen. Dick Lugar in the Indiana primary to Keith Judd, the federal inmate "who won 41 percent of the ballots against President Obama in West Virginia’s Democratic presidential primary."

New York Times Editors: "For more than a year, House Republicans have energetically worked to demolish vital social programs that have made this country both stronger and fairer over the last half-century. At the same time, they have insisted on preserving bloated military spending and unjustifiably low tax rates for the rich. That effort reached a nadir on Thursday when the House voted to prevent $55 billion in automatic cuts imposed on the Pentagon as part of last year’s debt-ceiling deal, choosing instead to make all those cuts, and much more, from domestic programs."

Local News

Tim Ghianni of Reuters: "Tennessee teachers can no longer condone so-called 'gateway sexual activity' such as touching genitals under a new law that critics say is too vague and could hamper discussion about safe sexual behavior. Governor Bill Haslam's office Friday confirmed that he had signed the bill, which stirred up controversy nationwide and even was lampooned by comedian Stephen Colbert." CW: in related news, the state's top sociologists, psychiatrists and other members of the scientific community have remarked on the anomaly that the state's adult legislators are more interested in sex than are teens. A Vanderbilt University bacteriologist has recommended testing the water in the drinking fountains at the capitol building in Nashville. "There's something wrong with these people," she said.

Jason Stein & Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A filmmaker released a video Thursday that shows Gov. Scott Walker saying he would use 'divide and conquer' as a strategy against unions. Walker made the comments to Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks, who has since given $510,000 to the governor's campaign -- making her Walker's single-largest donor and the largest known donor to a candidate in state history.... In the 2010 campaign, Walker won the support of Operating Engineers Local 139, a union that represents about 9,000 heavy equipment operators in Wisconsin. The union is not endorsing anyone in this year's recall election. Terry McGowan, the union's business manager, said the union gave its 2010 endorsement only after getting assurances Walker would not pursue right-to-work legislation.... But he added that divide and conquer is a phrase that is anathema to those in the labor movement. 'It means turning worker against worker,' he said." Via Charles Pierce.

News Ledes

** New York Times: "Louis H. Pollak, a federal judge and former dean of two prestigious law schools who played a significant role in major civil rights cases before the Supreme Court, including the landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation case, died on Wednesday at his home in Philadelphia. He was 89."

New York Times: "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Friday sharply criticized the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, over his handling of child sexual abuse cases among the borough's large ultra-Orthodox Jewish community."

AP: "An Israeli envoy will submit a letter to the Palestinian president regarding the possibility of substantive peace talks, said officials from both sides Saturday. The modest exchange is the highest-level communication between the two sides in months."

Guardian: "Chicago police have been accused of intimidating protesters ahead of the Nato conference next week. A video posted to YouTube appears to show officers saying they would 'come looking for' protesters after a traffic stop in the city." Includes video.

Washington Post: "Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin has given up his U.S. citizenship, a move that will reduce his taxes when Facebook goes public in the coming weeks. Saverin, who was born in Brazil and moved to the U.S. in 1992 and has been a U.S. citizen since 1998, has decided to become a resident of Singapore."